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As a bankruptcy attorney for specialist law firm Baker McKenzie, Tony Petrello was one of the star lawyers in a competitive business. Throughout the 1980s, he had risen to the level of junior partner in the firm, becoming one of the most prolific and highly skilled bankruptcy workout attorneys in the nation.
It was in this capacity that he began working on the case of a struggling oil extraction firm called Nabors Industries. Throughout the 1980s, the once-thriving company had fallen on hard times. It was quickly being forced into a corner, hemorrhaging cash at rates that were not sustainable. The firm needed badly to undergo corporate restructuring and refocus on its core businesses.
But as a lawyer on the case, Petrello had no idea that, soon, he would be tapped by the board of directors to become one of the company’s executive members. In 1991, he became an executive with the firm, beginning a career track that would last for the next 25 years.
And he proved to be one of the best employees that the company had ever hired. Throughout the 1990’s, Petrello led the firm in a completely new direction, spotting profit opportunities that nobody else had the ability to see. One of the areas into which Petrello led his firm was that of hydraulic fracturing. At the time, hydraulic fracturing was largely considered a pipe dream in the energy extraction business. People were aware of vast deposits of proven oil reserves throughout much of the North American continent. However, there was no way to immediately extract them in a way that made any kind of economic sense. Nabors Industries was about to change that under Petrello’s leadership.
Through the late 1990s, the firm became the first manufacturer of oil drilling equipment anywhere in the world to successfully bring to market highly sophisticated systems that, for the first time, made the extraction of hard oil reserves located throughout America’s shale deposits economically viable.
Many of these systems made extensive use of automation, enabling platforms of up to 8 drills to be operated by a single operator. These were incredible breakthroughs in the oil drilling business. Before the development of these highly sophisticated platforms, such an operation would have needed at least 20 men to operate. The dramatic reduction in payroll cost was part of the ability of these rigs to make the extraction of some of the most difficult to reach oil deposits profitable.
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